New England is a confusing team. So far this year, they've been demolished by Houston (4-0) and beaten by D.C. United (2-0). However, they also beat the Dynamo at home (2-0) and took out San Jose on the road (2-1). A draw last week with Chicago (a team EVERYONE draws with) was a very eventful match that the Revs were very close to losing when the Fire missed a stoppage-time penalty kick.
Are they good? Bad? Under-performing? Adjusting to new players?
Last year, the Revs were a Claudio Bieler extra-time goal away from ending Sporting KC's playoff run. My money is so far on adjusting. There's talent on the roster, but Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe have yet to fully get going this year as the team tries to integrate several MLS castoffs — including former KC forward Teal Bunbury — into the system.
On the other side, Kansas City is fresh of its most convincing victory of the season and back on top of the Eastern Conference through six games. The champions league didn't go exactly as planned for Sporting KC, but it seems to have helped propel the team to find its league form quicker than some of the other playoff teams from last year. (See also,Houston
You can read more about the KC's new-found offensive outputhere
Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The match will be broadcast on KMCI (Ch. 38) and SKCTV affiliates throughout the Midwest.
Let's preview, shall we?
Tactical questions1. Which team will control the opening 30 minutes?
New England probably won't be truly desperate this early in the season, but the Revs are very much in need of a positive result at home. Combined with the lack of punch by a few of their offseason signings (including Bunbury) so far, that pressure to get a result is likely looming larger. The Revs should come out fired up and looking to take the game to the defending champs.
On the other hand, this could be a "blood in the water" moment for a Kansas City squad riding off last week's impressive 4-0 victory. Will KC come out and push the game? In the previous two road games (a 1-0 loss to Seattle and a 3-2 win over Colorado), Sporting KC sat back slightly from its standard high pressure trying instead to stymie the attack from a deeper position. They might have the momentum and the confidence to do a little more in this game.
Why the first 30 minutes? Well, neither team has scored a goal in the first 30 minutes this year. Kansas City hasn't allowed a first-half goal yet this year too.
There's a good chance that, whichever team gets the first goal, will win. Neither team has lost when scoring first this year.2. Can New England's reserve fullbacks cope with KC's wingers?
The Revs will be without the services of regular left back Kevin Alston (he picked up a red card against the Fire). They are also going to be without regular starting center back (and reigning MLS Defender of the Year) Jose Goncalves. Without him back to marshal the defense, Andrew Farrell tucks in to the middle. (He's been quite good there.)
That leaves Chris Tierney and Darius Barnes to man the flanks. Both are decent back-up fullbacks, but they'll have their hands full with Graham Zusi and KC's bombing fullbacks. Attacking from the wings has been one of KC's strengths this year and a major weakness for New England.
Interesting Stat Alert
Five of Sporting KC's six opponents have committed more fouls against KC than they average on the season. Kansas City is an aggressive team already (third most fouls per game in MLS with 16.2). What's interesting is how they've managed to either goad or frustrate opponents into playing as aggressively.
Seattle averages 13.4 fouls per game. Against KC? 15. Dallas bested their average of 16.4 with 19 against Sporting. San Jose — the least fouling team in the league with 11 per game — committed 20 at Sporting Park.
Colorado (12.2) and Montreal (14.9) both committed about three more fouls than usual against KC with 15 and 17 respectively.
Only Real Salt Lake (Average: 14.3) committed fewer fouls. Against KC, they somehow were whistled for just six fouls.
New England is nearly smack dab in the middle of the pack with 14 fouls per game.
Best Guess at a Lineup
With a few nagging injuries (and a busy month coming soon) I think Vermes could opt to mix up his regular formation with a few tweaks. Aurelien Collin (hamstring strain) and Paulo Nagamura (quad strain) are both listed as questionable. Given the lack of depth currently at central defense and Matt Besler leaving soon for U.S. national team camp, I think we could see Lawrence Olum get a start back there. I wouldn't be surprised if Erik Palmer-Brown, KC's 17-year-old phenom, gets the call either.
As for Nagamura, his injury would give KC a chance to get rookie Alex Martinez -- who's been solid in spot duty this year -- some more playing time. C.J. Sapong is the only other player on the injury report, he's listed as out with a neck strain.
Bench: Gruenebaum; Juliao, Palmer-Brown, Collin; Dovale; Peterson, Bieler
PredictionSporting KC 1, New England 0
Kansas City have been very solid the last three matches and that run should continue against a team still struggling to find its footing early in the season.
Song of the Day
Spotify recently added all of these sub-genre playlists to explore. In a fit of curiosity, I checked out a playlist called "Dive Bar Essentials" -- I am a dive bar aficionado -- and it led to a few hours of serious entertainment.
And it reminded me that once upon a time I had a very serious crush on Kim Deal. Not necessarily the Kim Deal from The Pixies, though. The Kim Deal from The Breeders. I still love this song.